These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

Go For Yourself

Posted on October 13, 2013 by Hannah Joy

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From my blog:

947384_10151396857501536_68437029_nThis past week’s Torah portion, Lech Lecha, made me think of my own decision to take a year to study in Israel. The first verse reads as follows:

וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל-אַבְרָם, לֶךְ-לְךָ מֵאַרְצְךָ וּמִמּוֹלַדְתְּךָ וּמִבֵּית אָבִיךָ, אֶל-הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר אַרְאֶךָּ.

Vayomer Hashem el-Avram Lech Lecha me’artzecha umimoladetecha umibeit avicha el-ha’aretz asher ar’eka.

“And God said to Avram (Abraham): go forth from your land, and from the place of your birth, and from the house of your father, to the land that I will show you.” (Genesis 12:1)

Two verses later, after God explains that He will make Avram a great nation, etc, etc, Avram goes. No questions asked.

Was he NUTS?! He just gets up and leaves!! Guess in those days everything was a bit simpler: no flights to book, phone plans to buy, apartments to hunt down. Just pack up shop and go. (How anyone got anywhere without smartphones and Google maps, I will never know…)

Who on earth would just pick up and travel far away to another country?!
(Oh. Hey… )

A question that is often asked is: Why does the verse say lech lecha? (literally translated as “go for yourself”) If Avram was going for himself, why does he need God to tell him? Better yet, if God’s telling him… is it really for himself? Or is he doing it for God? Or just because God asked?

Maybe sometimes we need a little push. Later on maybe we’ll know it’s the right decision for us and will help us to learn and grow, but in the moment sometimes it’s hard to see. Sometimes those outside of ourselves can know what’s best for us, because they can see the world outside of our perspective. So that’s what God did for Avram here.

In a dvar torah on Lech Lecha on the AJWS website, Adina Roth explains:

“The Sefat Emet, a 19th-century Chasidic rabbi, suggests that Avram’s departure from the familiar to the open-ended will enlarge his vision, indicating that the root of the word arekha is “resh-aleph-heh”—to see.”

By leaving his home and traveling to a completely new place, Avram’s view of the world would grow and transform. When we are pushed outside of our comfort zone, especially in a new place, that is often when we discover, learn and grow the most.

As the saying by André Gide goes, “Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.” (I would change that to include women as well, but hey, another topic for another time.)

So too, I know that taking this year for myself to live and study in Israel will allow me to learn and grow in so many new ways.

Before coming, some part of me was positive that I was making the right decision, but there was another (often much louder) part that made me doubt: “A year?? Are you crazy? That’s a long time to be away from home. Do you really want to go? What if you want to come back? What if you forget something? What if you miss home too much? What if you love it so much you never want to leave?”

So, to everyone who has encouraged me to come here (and put up with my endless questions and worries), thank you so much for being that perspective outside of myself. I would not be here if it weren’t for you. And of course I will continue to update you with beautiful pictures and stories enticing you to come visit me (and bring me American products 😀 ).

In the words of Kelly Clarkson:

“I’ll spread my wings
And I’ll learn how to fly
Though it’s not easy to tell you goodbye
I gotta take a risk
Take a chance
Make a change
And breakaway”

Shavua tov 🙂